Get it white: 8 tips for creating a fantastic marketing whitepaper

Whitepapers are fantastic for marketers looking to persuade, educate and basically look like awesome experts.

They are enticing content marketing tools which help present your business as pretty damn smart in its industry.

These in-depth reports have to do a great job at marketing – without being all about you, your business or its services.

Facts and evidence are key. Presentation is super important. Legibility is paramount.

And once you’ve written and promoted an amazing whitepaper, you can repurpose all the wonderful copy into other marketing material. A gift that keeps on giving. Hurray!

Check out my top 8 tips for creating fantastic, compelling, read-from-finish-to-end whitepapers.

1- Make an exchange for your whitepaper

Marketers obtaining client personal data in exchange for a whitepaper download

Whitepapers are sneaky little things. While it’s great to send it across to your existing email database (read my blog ‘What GDPR means for marketers‘ for an overview of data handling this way) and promote across social media to your followers, whitepapers can help you obtain new client contact details.

Don’t be cray-cray and needy and ask for too much information from could-be clients.

Asking for too much personal data can turn people off right from the outset. Normally, just a name and email address should suffice.

Sometimes companies avoid using the word whitepaper when promoting this download. Instead, consider promoting it as your new report – or better still, special report! Anything to entice readers and avoid people switching off thinking they’re about to engulf a boring sales pitch.

2- Write a sexy title

Research for a marketing whitepaper title

First thing’s first when it comes to your whitepaper copy. You need to grab the attention of people – people who can then actually become readers and better still, clients. Spend some time perfecting a final, interesting title, with a professional tone.

Focus on your customer’s needs and pains. Hint at solving their issues. This is far more likely to inspire them to take action and turn to your business.

Focus on your readers throughout. You can explain interesting research with a nice balance of how and why this is important to them – but first thing’s first, get your headline right. Target your audience. Make a powerful statement or ask an intriguing question.

Tip: Write a few titles – wait until the end to choose your favourite, especially if you have writer’s block, and ask around for advice.

 3- Make it pretty & stand out

A stand out whitepaper

Bearing in mind most whitepapers are several pages long, it’s really important to keep the reader interested so they’ll actually read and absorb the darn thing.

This is where jazzing up your content can be a game-changer.

Mix copy with images, illustrations, graphs and more. It’s best to present your whitepaper in a PDF format in portrait orientation. For many companies, hiring a designer may be the best options for overall design, instead of hours and hours trying to Photoshop your way through a messy maze of great copy, but awful presentation. But, if you Google successfully, you may find a free template or two to play around with if you’ve got a good eye for design.

Tip: Use pull quotes (AKA callouts) to gorgeously break up your copy and stop ‘skimmers’ from dismissing your copy. Pull quotes are just fantastic. They pull out a small pieces of copy from your body into an isolated area. They’re generally really important, relevant pieces of information, stand-out research findings or an actual quote from an expert commenting in the copy.

Make your whitepaper look as amazing as you on a Friday night.

4- Don’t be pushy

Marketers promoting a business whitepaper

 Of course, you know the goal of your whitepaper. Overall, you want to persuade the reader to use your services, buy your product or turn to your business to contemplate investing money.

But don’t oversell yourself.

People will turn off before page two if you make it transparent that you’re selling your business through storytelling and problem-solving. Be as subtle as possible; write conversationally and try to engage with your readers. Ask them questions – even those juicy rhetoric ones. Then you can ease in with trying to get them to take action. Whitepapers generally have a single focus, so if you’re been asked to put a piece of copy together with several themes and topics, maybe an e-book is the better option.

5- Structure it neatly

A marketing email design

If you want people to read your whitepaper from start to finish, a legibile, concise layout must be considered. I mean, these bad boys are normally at least six pages long.

That’s alot of content for people to digest without needing a power-nap. Include a title page and table of contents.

Write a helpful summary or introduction so readers know what they’re getting their teeth in to. Make your introduction as snazzy as your title. Use sub-headings generously and consider adding copy into sidebars. And always ensure a clear conclusion – with reference to your business’ products/services and how they’re related, at the end.

Your conclusion is basically a Call To Action (CTA) in disguise.

Visually, structure is totally important too. Consider the typography, images and colours throughout. Yes – it fits with your company Tone of Voice (TOV) – but is it actually legibile? What about on mobile? 

Tip: Bullet points are magical tools if you need to break up heavy pieces of content.

6- Include solid, genuinely interesting research

A library of books for marketing research

Whitepapers must educate and impart wisdom on your specific subject. Your copy must adhere to this! Don’t waffle on needlessly if you simply need space to fill. Your whitepaper should be heavily research-based – preferably with input from reputable industry experts.

You need to come across as trustworthy and credible as a source by the end of it.

Back up your claims with research, clearly and concisely, and be suitably descriptive. Of course, you have to have a hint of persuasiveness, but the underlying theme should be that you’re writing and presenting information to help existing and future clients.

Tip: Avoid overusing jargon. Even with excellent research findings, readers can get seriously bored if your body is immersed in specialist, technical lingo.

7- Take your time

A clock ticking

Whitepapers can take weeks to produce!

Of course, if you have a set, tight deadline, you shouldn’t spend hours and hours at the office water cooler, chatting about TOWIE.

But if you have control over delivery expectations, bear in mind that it’s OK to spend a significant amount of time perfecting your whitepaper. First, second, third and so-on drafts are really important.

Whitepapers are massively data-driven, so they shouldn’t be rushed if it results in analytical errors.

Tip: Always get your final copy proof-read by as many people internally as possible.

A whitepaper typo is a marketing no-no fo-sho.

8- Tell the world

The sharing of a whitepaper across a business' social media channels and email marketing

Once you’re happy with your whitepaper, make sure you actually tell people about it! Where is it actually living? On your company blog? A specific landing page? A resource library? Make sure you’re sharing the correct link and email it to your list; post it across your social media pages (especially LinkedIn), get your employees to reshare it across theirs, blog about it, highlight it on your newsletter… there are a plethora of ways to get the message out there.

Tip: Check out my blog ‘8 reasons why your business needs a Facebook page‘ for some other tips on what to post across the fabulous social platform.

Successful whitepapers will generate leads and boost conversions. Do you have any tips for creating them? 🙂

Bethany Wash

Storyteller. Digital marketer. Blogger. Social media enthusiast. Off the clock, an avid reader, cat mum, flautist and cocktail lover flitting between Bristol and Cornwall.

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